When was the last time you went to the movies? Unfortunately, due to COVID-19, many movie theaters across the country remain closed out of an abundance of caution. Even in communities where theaters are open, not everyone feels comfortable going to see the latest film indoors with strangers during a pandemic. Still, it’s hard not to crave that old familiar cinematic experience. You know: the big, hi-res image, dynamic sound, and, of course, that delectable movie popcorn.

Fortunately, it’s possible to recreate the movie theater experience in our own homes. With a few smart investments, you can transform your apartment living space into a movie theater for the evening or for Disney+ or Netflix marathons that fill the weekend.

How to Upgrade Your Home Movie Experience

Get your living space decked out for an upgraded cinematic experience. Here are some tips as you stream your favorite services to your home theater.

Large, High-Resolution TVs

If you already have a TV you’re happy with, consult your owner’s manual to optimize your TV’s settings. The out-of-the-box settings are rarely ideal for an apartment environment. Account for the light level in your viewing area. Make adjustments to preserve the detail in both the highlights and the shadows.

If you’re ready for an upgrade, you’ll find that large-screen TVs are more affordable than ever. The cost of a 4K Ultra UHD 55-inch Smart TV from two years ago is similar to that of the 65-inch version today. Huge 75-inch and 85-inch 4K TVs also cost much less than they once did. TVs with richly hued OLED screens are more affordable than ever.

8K Ultra HD is the new kid on the block. The screens have 16 times as many pixels as 1080p. At the viewing distances in most home theaters, it’s more resolution than necessary. According to CNET, fewer than one in a hundred new TVs is 8K.

Projectors and Screens

If you want to view a very large image, consider a home cinema projector. To captivate the viewer with a quality projected image, you will need open wall space and the ability to really darken the room. For top picture quality, consider an investment in a projector screen. Such screens are crafted from highly reflective silver or white material. They deliver a bright, colorful image. Such screens come in various sizes, with 100-inch and 120-inch versions being most popular. Roll them up and tuck them away when not in use.

For larger gatherings, consider screens with viewing angles of 160 degrees or more. For up to four viewers seated near the center axis of the image, go with a narrower viewing angle. You’ll end up with a brighter image in the process. If you consider a ceiling mount projector or a wall mount screen, consult first with your landlord or property manager.

Dynamic Sound

Soundbars take your audio experience well beyond that delivered by typical built-in speakers. Select from various performance and price levels.

For apartment dwellers, it is the quality of the sound that is key, not the volume. Choose either 2.1 channel or 5.1 channel sound. The former features two speakers and a sub-woofer, which is ideal when space is limited. The latter requires the space needed to set up five speakers: front left and right, side front, back, and back center.

You don’t have to be an audiophile to enjoy the amazing audio delivered by a soundbar. Dolby and DTS technologies deliver rich, dimensional sound. Netflix and Disney+ continue to release movies that support Dolby Atmos. The soundbar’s up-firing drivers bounce sound waves off the ceiling. The sound that comes from above and behind will dazzle the senses and deliver that authentic cinema experience.

Prices range from under a hundred dollars for soundbars to several times that for soundbar and speaker combos. Look for wireless connectivity if you want voice control and music streaming.

Food and Beverages

With a home theater, your entire stock of food and drink is just steps away in the kitchen. Pause the movie and satisfy your cravings anytime you want!

Most will agree that movie theater popcorn and a favorite drink are essential parts of the experience. Create your own carbonated drinks and mixers with a SodaStream. A retro popcorn machine delivers that classic movie snack with a whole lot of style. Choose from compact countertop models to floor units that contribute to your home decor full time. Kettle sizes range from one ounce to 32 ounces. And don’t forget that the higher the wattage of the popcorn machine, the quicker the popping. You can even take your retro home cinema a step further with a six-can vintage mini-fridge.A family sits on a couch ready for movie night, complete with a large tub of popcorn. A caption reads, "With a home theater, your entire stock of food and drink is just steps away in the kitchen. Pause the movie and satisfy your cravings anytime you want!"

Here’s a recipe for making your own buttery popcorn topping. Stock different seasonings to please the palettes of family and friends. Serve up your freshly popped creation in a vintage-look popcorn bucket.

Theater Seating

Devoted cinephiles may even want to invest in deluxe movie chairs. They are usually upholstered with moisture and grease-resistant leather, bonded leather, or vinyl. Many recline and they often include ergonomic back support. Look for flip-up armrests for both comfort and cuddling. Consider compact theater seats when space is at a premium.

Built-in cup holders are common, and some feature retractable food trays. You’ll even find in-home theater seating with USB ports and power outlets.

Finishing Touches

Projectors work best in dark rooms. Room-darkening window treatments are key when projecting an image. Install blackout window treatments to make the projected image even more bright and viewable. For the best sound, you want to reduce sound waves randomly bouncing off of surfaces. Rugs and carpeting can help absorb some of this stray sound. WiFi-connected lighting makes it possible to dim the lights from your seat. Use Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant, or a smartphone app to set the perfect ambiance before your film.

Yes, it takes some effort to set up a large-screen or projection TV along with enhanced audio. However, the reward is more than worth it. A crisp, clear picture and high-fidelity sound deliver a truly immersive experience, transporting you through time and space to worlds both real and imagined.

Upgrade Your Apartment Living Today

For more apartment living tips, including how to save on utilities, set up a home gym, and how to decorate balconies and decks, visit Draper and Kramer.

A couple of pairs of feet wearing warm socks kicked up on a coffee table in front of a television screen.

With a few smart investments, you can transform your apartment living space into a movie theater for the evening or for Disney+ or Netflix marathons that fill the weekend.

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